Amendment 6

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench 4:15 pm, 15th July 2019

The noble Lord chided the number of lawyers taking part in this debate. I have certainly practised law, but, if I may say so, and with great respect, what he has just said shows how little he understands the law of which he has complained.

To turn back to the thread of what I was going to say, I have spent 34 of the past 36 years of my life as a Member of one and then the other of these two Houses of Parliament. I listened to the eloquence of my noble friend Lord Anderson with great attention. I must tell him that I am extremely reluctant to vote for his amendment because, as a parliamentarian of 34 years, I do not like to see the rules of the two Houses of one of the most distinguished Parliaments in the world used as part of a parlour game—as devices.

But then I listened to the noble Lord, Lord True, and, with great respect to him, I realised that the true democrats in this debate are the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Newby, and the noble Viscount Lord Hailsham, who tabled this amendment. My reluctance is overcome by my wishing, as they do, to sustain the law and sustain—I use that word advisedly because I am not ashamed of using it—the traditions and democratic role of this Parliament, including the role played by your Lordships’ House.

I fear that what is being advised to the Committee by the noble Lord, Lord True, and what appears to be in the mind of Boris Johnson, is to drive a carthorse through parliamentary procedure and simply leaves the debris as an acceptable part of what occurs. It shows that they do not understand the fundamental constitutional nature of the referendum and the process that followed it. It was not the duty of this Parliament simply to leave the European Union just like that. It was the responsibility of this Parliament, having been advised by the population in the referendum to attempt to leave the European Union in a way that did not destroy the economy or the political structure of this country. In my view, that requires the attention of Parliament to the very end, not the frustration of the law.

If I have to, I will reluctantly vote for the amendment, but it could all be resolved so simply. All Mr Johnson has to do is to pick up the telephone—with a witness or maybe several witnesses present, I hasten to add—and say to the noble Lord on the Front Bench, “I have been very badly misunderstood. I give a clear undertaking that I will not prorogue Parliament so as to frustrate the very purpose for which it exists”. Then I would not have to vote reluctantly for something that I do not really like.